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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Aintree Grand National 2013

Here we go again! It's the day when everyone and their granny has a bet. A good case could be made for at least ten runners and it's hard to finally decide on one (or two!) but that's what it is all about. Here's today's Irish Independent article:

RICHARD Nixon once said that finishing second in the Olympics gets you silver but finishing second in politics gets you oblivion. Coming second in horseracing is not quite as bad as all that as you still get compensation by way of place money; and in races like the Grand National (4.15 Aintree), that compensation can be a hell of a lot of dough. Still though, there are not many table quizzes that will ask you to name the runner-up of the Grand National and it’s only the winner that gets immortalised with his name carved out in the hall of fame. Some very good trainers like Evan Williams haven’t yet managed to land one of the top-two spots in the greatest steeplechase of all but nonetheless, his record in the race is better than many with Cappa Bleu finishing fourth last year and State Of Play finishing fourth, third and fourth in 2011, 2010 and 2009 respectively. It must be frustrating to go so close but four places in as many years is something Williams can be proud of. Now rated 2lbs lower this time around, Cappa Bleu might be the one to get Williams into the record books and last year's big-race experience can only do him good. Prepared again with the Grand National in mind, they haven't given the eleven-year-old a hard time in the past twelve months, racing just twice. At Carlisle in November, jockey Paul Moloney went easy on his mount when it was clear that Across The Bay wouldn't be beaten while in his trial run at Ascot in February (finished second), Cappa Bleu responded well to pressure although never looked like beating Vino Gregio. But a fluent round of jumping will have oiled up any creaks and he comes to Aintree in tip-top shape. It will be interesting to see what tactics his Irish jockey will employ in this year's renewal; last year, he found himself hampered at
Foinavon early on and a patient ride in an attempt to conserve energy left the horse with too much to do. Perhaps a slightly bolder ride this year might play to the horse's strengths. He's generally priced around 11/1 and with some bookmakers paying up to six places, it goes without saying that he should be backed each-way. Willie Mullins' On His Own has very strong claims too but at 7/1, his odds are a little skinny. He was travelling really well (traded near 7/2 in-running) when coming down at second Becher's last year and a lot of people have commented on how natural he looked up to that point. He's only been seen once since when he readily won a Grade 2 hurdle at Navan in February, and off the same mark as last year, he's got to be a major threat. That Tony McCoy has chosen to ride Ted Walsh's Colbert Station over Sunnyhill Boy is noteworthy and the nine-year-old is less exposed than most of the 40-strong field today - but the fact that he's only raced five times over fences puts a question mark over his head. Sunnyhill Boy came home second in a gripping finish last year but I doubt he'll be as efficient with an extra 10lbs to contend with today. It would be fantastic to see Ruby Walsh's sister Katie become the first female jockey to win the race on Seabass, which is another one trained by her father, Ted, but an extra 5lbs may be enough to stop him matching last year's excellent run in third. Alongside Cappa Bleu, I can't help having a nibble at the 20/1 on offer about the 2011 winner Ballabriggs. He was racing off a 150 rating the year he landed the prize and wasn't disgraced when sixth last year off 160. He's back down to 152 today although I do concede that he's not getting any younger. Another one to consider is Gordon Elliott's Chicago Grey who is 9lbs lower than last year and comes from a yard which is bang in-form at the moment.

Soccer: With the title on its way back to Old Trafford, Monday night's Manchester Derby is for bragging rights only. United are favourites but with City looking to restore some pride, this could be close and a draw is fancied at 5/2.
Horseracing: While everyone is focused on Aintree today, don't let
Van Der Neer slip under the radar in the Listed International Trial Stakes at Lingfield (3.00). A classy looking sort, he was second to Kingsbarns in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster and should prove very hard to beat back down in class today, priced around 5/6.  

2.15 Aintree: Bailey Green
2.50 Aintree: Solwhit
3.00 Lingfield:
Van Der Neer
4.15 Aintree: Cappa Bleu (e/w)
4.15 Aintree: Ballabriggs (e/w)

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